[2013125] Chipolatas present ‘Gentlemen of the Road’

[2013125] Chipolatas present ‘Gentlemen of the Road’

The Chipolatas @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – Romantiek

4:00pm, Mon 11 Mar 2013

During the prelude to Limbo, Jane‘s friend had mentioned that The Chipolatas not only presented a great children’s show, but a great show full-stop – I forget the extent of his superlatives, but they were sufficient for me to rock up to the Romantiek on a stupidly hot afternoon (again).

There’s a thick, heavy smell within the Romantiek – it’s almost like varnish (though, in retrospect, it’s more like to have been something like paraffin), and the heat exacerbates its impact… I’m immediately wondering whether this is the environment that day-destroying headaches are made of. But, in front of a small audience of only around twenty – half of which were parents desperately trying to keep their children cool and somewhat attentive – The Chipolatas created an utterly charming performance which, unfortunately, seemed completely at odds with the weather.

Presenting a series of short stories, music, and occasional forays into acrobatics, the three Chipolatan men have a very different take on a kid’s show: rather than the typical brash and rowdy music that accompanies most children’s shows, their acoustic tunes – delivered with a small drum kit, an accordion, and some occasional guitar and trumpet – are quiet, tuneful pieces with thoughtful lyrics that insult neither child nor parent. And their audience interaction is similarly intelligent: after coaxing a girl from the audience (there were initially fearful tears), the manner in which they empowered the youngster to walk a tightrope (which, admittedly, was on the stage floor) using a hi-hat as a makeshift balance umbrella… well, that was just heartwarmingly cute.

A little bit of object juggling (which was occasionally sloppy – no real surprise, given the Chipolatas were sweating buckets) was accompanied by a minimal acrobatic set – a couple of somersaults and cartwheels, and a solitary handstand. The lightweight physical movement pieces were followed by a campfire of juggled torches – with the house lights lowered, it’s a gorgeous experience with the flames erratically lighting the space. The juggling itself was pretty impressive, too, with torches being juggled in pairs and with a lot of Chipolatan swapping, and they milked for laughs by exaggerating the flicking of sweat from their brows.

But that pretty much nails the big problem with this performance – it was bloody hot in the Romantiek, and no-one in their right mind should have been juggling flaming torches. The audience (mostly) suffered silently in the heat, and The Chipolatas really had to work had for their applause. And they fully deserved applause – it’s a wonderfully intelligent and respectful production, full of quiet and encouraging moments – but the venue (and the sun outside) conspired against them.

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